Symbols & Storytelling
O’Halloran, Kate. Hands-On Culture
of West Africa. Portland, ME: J.
Weston Walch, 1997.
Feldman, Edmund Burke. Varieties
of Visual Experience. New York,
NY: Prentice Hall and Harry N.
to simulate either tree bark or natural woven cloth Africans often used.
Have students plan their designs in
pencil first. They may incorporate a
variety of drawing ideas, depending
on their story, from African masks
to sculpture heads, to everyday Afri-
Most importantly, students need
to integrate the Adinkra symbols as
a unified part of their design. This
can be achieved by adding a border
with the symbols running along
all four sides of the wall hanging,
or perhaps by placing the Adinkras
in strategic areas of the object or
the design. Have students outline
the design in black oil pastel and
use colored oil pastels to fill in the
design. Stick to traditional African
colors, which might be earth tones
contrasted with the bright reds,
royal blues, and yellows for which
they are traditionally known.
There are seven parts to the final
stage of finishing the wall hangings:
1. Crinkle the packaging paper after
the oil pastel is completed.
2. For contrast, outline the areas
again in black oil pastel.
3. Dab the paper with a watercolor
resist in a natural charcoal/brown
4. Tear the edges for a natural look.
5. Add raffia, beads, and feathers.
6. Back the hanging with construc-
7. Find sticks from outside to use as
hangers and attach them with a
hot glue gun.
Tracy Ellyn is president of Miami Art and
Design, Miami’s art education resource.
Students use subjects, themes, and
symbols that demonstrate knowl-
edge of contexts, values, and aes-
• brown packaging paper
• oil pastels
• watercolor paint
• paintbrushes and water
• raffia, beads, feathers
• sticks from outside
• construction paper
• hot glue gun
The art critique is storytelling hour.
By following the Edmund Feldman
format for art criticism, students
can describe, analyze, interpret, and
judge their own and each other’s
wall hangings. The interpretation
stage of the critique serves as time
to communicate each student’s
story. The art critique serves as the
consensus for visual success, and as
the consensus for art as metaphor—
a story without words.